More often than I can count, I get a little visitor come up to me and ask me questions about what I'm doing. It will be in a park area, or on a beach somewhere in the middle of what I call "Dirt Fishing". The headphones are on and I am swinging a strange looking stick from side to side. A curiosity for any young child to see. And at that point I get the most innocent questions.
"Hey mister, what are you doing?" and, "What are you looking for?"
I often give them a simple explanation that seems to satisfy their curiosity and then they run back to their friends or parents.
This got me thinking, how many adults see me metal detecting but are too embarrassed to come up and ask me what I am looking for? Or even what metal detecting is really all about. There is something lost with the innocence of simple questions, so I have decided to write a simple answer to the question not asked.
"What is metal detecting all about?"
When the subject of metal detecting comes up, it's not hard to picture some older guy on the beach waving an MD across the sand and picking up lost change. But this would be like describing fishing as putting a line in the water and waiting for fish.
Just like fishing, it's not as simple as that.
To put this as simply as possible, metal detectors use the science of induction to locate metal underground. There are three different types of metal detection technology that we will be talking about. They are Pulse Induction, or PI, VLF, or very low frequency, and BFO, or beat frequency oscillator.
VLF, as well with the other two, create a magnetic field from the coil at the end of the metal detector. Do you remember using a magnet and metal filings in science class? It was used to help you see what the invisible magnetic field looked like. That is pretty much what the electronic magnetic field looks like from the coil. Nice curved lines that bubble out from the magnet. Now when a piece of metal comes in contact with that nice magnetic bubble, it disrupts the field and becomes energized by the field. The VLF creates this field very fast and then listens to any possible disturbance. Once a disturbance is detected, it alerts the user of the MD with some sort of tone or signal. Ta-da - your gold diamond ring is found! It is simply inducing a charge in the ground and listening for an echo from metal that might be there. The one big selling point of this type of detector is that you can discriminate the echo and tell if the metal object detected is either ferrous or nonferrous. Why is this important? All precious metal is nonferrous. This nice feature allows you to skip over the junk and only dig up what could be a gold ring.
Next time we will get into more detail about the other two types and what detector is best for what job. Just like cars, they are all not created the same.
Underwater metal detecting is a bit of a unique activity on its own. Being able to do this in almost any condition, up to 180' makes it even more specialized. The price that is paid sometimes, is travel. Between Vancouver and Kamloops there is only a handful of us that specialize in this type of metal detecting. There are even fewer people that target very small items like rings and earrings. That being said, I got a call from Chris Turner, the CEO of TheRingFinders.com, asking me if I was interested in a little trip.
Chris received a call from Ryan in Vancouver about a wedding band he had lost in the ocean. The ring was lost while visiting the Sunshine Coast on the weekend with is wife. Only 25' down, sandy bottom, 10' from a fixed dock, sounded pretty easy to me. I quite like ocean dives, especially BC coast ones because of all the colours and the abundance of life all around you underwater. I was once told that Jacques-Yves Cousteau regarded Vancouver Island as the number two dive site in the world. That being said, I packed up my gear for the voyage. Six and a half hours later and a trip on the Langdale ferry from Horseshoe Bay, I arrived at Sechelt, along the Sunshine Coast. Once we arrived at the location we took all the equipment down to the dock area and prepared for the dive.
The first descent revealed the truth about the dive site conditions, which you can see by the pictures is a little hard to tell from the surface. No flat surface, no sandy bottom and massive amounts of seaweed. It was more like a cliff face underwater. From the dock it was only 15' down, 6' out it was 50' down. Another thing I didn't anticipate was the fact that this dock was a new build and so there was construction debris all over the area where the ring was lost. This made my primary detector useless as I couldn't get a proper reading on Ryan's ring. I had to resort to using a Pulse Induction probe to search around the huge boulders and seaweed. This made for a very slow and tedious search as my detection field is only a 3' radius at best with the probe. Searching a cliff face is no easy task either, and at one point I disturbed an octopus taking an afternoon nap in a boulder crevasse. Nature channels don't do it justice when you see it live!
It was not until the forth dive that day, and a few test drops, that I did get a strong signal further away from the dock than I thought it would be. I initially thought it was another bottle cap or deck screw, but my finger went right through it, so I know I had something. Before I surfaced with any excitement, I put the ring right up to my mask and read the inscription inside. It read, "With Love, Now and Forever", definitely the one I was looking for!
I calmly surfaced and started handing my equipment to Ryan. He was looking a little sad as I was handing him my gear... until I reached for his help to get out of the water. You see, I had his ring on my pinky finger. Ryan didn't notice it right away, but when he did, the only sounds from him where "Wa, waaa, wahhhh ohh aaahhh". And from that moment on, until we left the location, Ryan didn't take his eyes off his ring. You see, this ring has been on Ryan's hand for five years since the day that he was married. Not knowing, and having it lost at sea, made him feel as if something was missing from him. He even told me he had a difficult time sleeping at night without it. At one point his wife told him to just replace it, but Ryan was determined to find the original and that is where we came in. Ryan's ring now has a great story with a happy ending, with a little help from "TheRingFinders.com".
It's a great feeling finding something treasured and an even better feeling when you can give it back!
Jennifer, a social worker working downtown was returning from lunch about two weeks ago. As she was reaching for the crosswalk button on the corner of Harvey and Ellis, her beautiful silver carved ring came off. All she heard was "ping, ping" and then nothing. Jennifer and her co-worker scoured the area looking for it, but came up empty handed. When she returned to her office she posted a panicked Lost & Found ad on Castanet.net. I saw the ad and I sent her an e-mail to contact me ASAP. The reason for the haste was because she had a little too much information of exactly where and how she lost her ring. An exact location leaves it open for any unscrupulous person to go and find the ring for themselves. I know it sounds bad, but it does happen.
Jennifer changed the ad to be more vague and I went to the location to take a look. Now city sidewalk searches are difficult because of all the metal everywhere. You have re-bar, debris, metal in buildings, and foil wrappers. For this type of search I use an old BFO detector from the 60s because of the fact that it only goes down about 2" in depth and is not affected by most surrounding metal. This shallow detector is perfect because this is a recent drop and I don't expect to find it under 6" of soil. This first search turned up the usual debris I came to expect from the street corner, but no ring.
My next step was a re-enactment of the scene. I use a pex ring for the test drop/throws when trying to see where the ring might land. My first test throw I got a "ping, ping" and nothing, except this time I saw where the nothing was. On the left side of the traffic light and on the side of the sidewalk is a sewer storm drain and it is exactly where my test ring went. This still poses as a major obstacle in retrieving a ring. The drain is 3 feet deep with a foot of water and the space between the grates is only an inch and a quarter, and you have traffic coming by every few seconds. I needed help for this one, so I contacted Mark Torgerson from Works & Utilities with the City of Kelowna for advice on the search. After telling him Jennifer's story, Mark and his crew came down to the location, cordoned off the corner, removed the grate and pumped out most of the water for the search. Now I can tell you from this experience that the muck at the bottom of a storm drain is not the sweet smelling nectar that one might expect, but a good test for your gag reflex!
Twenty minutes into the search, Sam, one of Mark's crewmen says to me, "Is this the ring your looking for?"... Bingo! I had in my hand a very smelly and dirty silver carved wrap around ring. Mark and his crew where quick and brilliant in helping us out with this search and it gives me a new appreciation for the work that these guys do for our city and its people.
Every ring has a story and it doesn't have to be a ridiculously expensive one to be valuable to someone. Jennifer used this ring as her wedding band. Her actual wedding ring was purchased when attending University as a student. It is cheap, and turns her finger green. Jennifer's husband's wedding ring is equally cheap and was bought off a street vendor, as every store was closed when they went looking for his ring the night before their wedding. (They had no idea the groom would need a ring too, until they had their practice wedding the night before.) Those rings are safe in a little box. The ring that was lost had been in place of the original and over the years she had become very attached to it as the symbol of their commitment. This ring meant a lot to her, so it meant a lot to us to find it, and we did, with a little help from the "City Yard" guys!
It's more than just finding precious metal, it's continuing the story that people tie to their rings, and our job is bringing that story back to life. And this is where this story begins...
Barb, an artist here in Kelowna, is one of three daughters living in the Okanagan. When her mother passed away nine years ago, they where each given three of their mother's most valuable rings. There are also three granddaughters and therefore these rings will undoubtedly be passed on to them one day.
More than a month ago, Barb was going to a cardio fitness class and placed her ring in her jacket pocket. After the class, she went about her day around downtown to do all her errands. After she returned home later that day and remembering that she had put her ring in the pocket.... it was no longer there! Panic set in and Barb started frantically backtracking, but not knowing where to start, she decided to post an ad on the Lost and Found section of Castanet.net.
In another non-related ring search I had contacted a lady who had been visiting Kelowna around the same time and she described a ring she had found as a multi-coloured stone, gold ring. It wasn't the one I was looking for, but it did sound familiar to me. On a hunch I went back through the archives of Castanet Lost & Found and found what I thought might be the match. This is what we call an "angel search".
I'm sure Barb's mother had something to do with it, because the second she described the ring to me, I knew we had a match. This sort of connection rarely ever happens. It is truly a shot in the dark. From a very honest lady in Saskatchewan who found the ring, and my gut feelings, we were able to reunite a very relieved Barb with a piece of her mother's memory. Now she and her grand-daughters can enjoy a happy Mother's Day! Castanet has proven to be a great resource in reuniting valuables and the owners who lost them. The credit for this ring-find goes to Castanet and a little help from TheRingFinders.com.